Musique concrète? Oui oui!

I’ve blogged about Lily Wen before, and with good reason. Among other fabulous things, my excellent friend is an all-vinyl soul music DJ and Lindy Hop luminary. And not too too long ago, she started a record label called Figure & Ground.

Les Yper Sound Explorations in Drums & Sax record

I love everything about this record. Just look at the cover!!

Beside having a really hip-looking website, Figure & Ground put out a rad EP last year of spoken word tracks by Alan Watts set to groovy NYC woodwinds. This year, the label may be outdoing itself, as Lily prepares to release Explorations in Drums & Sax: 14 original tracks, inspired by ’60s musique concrète, written and performed by the duo Les Yper Sound (comprised of New York session musicians Miles Arntzen and Jas Walton), with additional genius contributed by Beastie Boys collaborator Money Mark and Sudanese pop artist Sinkane, AND produced by the one and only Lily.

Whew! I will allow us to catch our breath.

Despite the record’s close relationship with sometimes non-musical “concrete” sounds, Lily writes that “it journeys through many genres showcasing percussion & woodwinds among an eclectic array of acoustic & electronic sounds—all rooted in rhythm and melody.” In other words, its notes and arrangements might be unusual, but they’re still perfectly listenable. Time to release that breath in a satisfied and relaxing way: Ahhhhhh.

Also, the album contains a song titled “Potato Brain.”

Now I know you just started scrambling for your headphones and Sherlock Holmes pipe (because I did, too), so here’s a link to a little listening party you can have right now before the thing comes out on November 4.

Thanks for keeping the hits coming, Lily! And by “hits,” I mean of course “intergalactic instrumentals mingled with the acousmatic sounds of everyday objects.”

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Voice on the Radio

Well, “love” might be too strong a word, but I didn’t mind it—and that’s an improvement!

If you’ve never heard me talk, I suppose you wouldn’t know that I have a fairly deep voice. Sometimes people who called our house when I was growing up thought I was my brother; I was the lone mezzo-alto in the school choir (I come by it honestly—my mom’s a tenor!); and I had an easier time singing R.E.M. in my college dorm shower than I did Tori Amos. Etc.

But out of all the things I was teased about as a kid—wearing thrift store clothes, riding to school on the back of a tandem bike, liking to read!—I was oddly spared any comments about my voice. Which was great! But that didn’t mean I myself was super cool with it.

man playing stand up bass

Did I mention I also played stand-up bass as a kid? (Though probably not as well as this guy.) How appropriate!

Still, I’ve always loved hearing other people’s voices: listening to the radio in particular has long been one of my favorite pastimes. I even aspired for a while to become an on-air DJ, a dream that only went so far as a year of interning at WERS while I was at Emerson College, and (maybe this counts?) a stint of reading books out loud for Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (which is apparently now called Learning Ally). But I’ve been a proud public radio member-nerd here in NYC for 10 years, and “become an awesome radio DJ” remains somewhere on my to-do list.

Part of the issue, I think, was that I didn’t super-like the sound of my voice when I heard it on tape. I realize most DJs are probably not required to go back and listen to their own recordings after doing a show, but the idea of too many people hearing my low-low tones was perhaps a bit off-putting. Until now!

Enter Ken Kinard, a creativity coach and chief creative officer at the marketing agency Accent Interactive. Ken and I met last spring, during a team-building program he directed for my client Pilot Projects. A few months ago, he told me he was planning to produce a podcast or two about the freelance lifestyle and asked if he might interview me for material. I thought it sounded like a hoot, and hey, maybe it was a chance to see if I’d outgrown my aural awkwardness?

The result of Ken’s and my interesting afternoon conversation at the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in Manhattan is a two-part ‘cast—also featuring freelancer Meaghan Ritchey of Curator Magazine—that explores the ins and outs of today’s freelance species: what drove us to this marginal existence? how do we manage our time? do we miss having coworkers? Or, the podcast intros themselves put it this way: “As more people are going independent, the way work gets done is changing. We explore how freelancers are living the lives of executives and the impact it has on vacation, family, security, and the community.”

Workwise podcast #10: Nice lance. You free?

Workwise podcast #11: Lancers for the win

Ken’s questions to Meaghan and me are interspersed with reflections from the studio as he and his cohost, Mike Boyes (a leadership development consultant, coach, and president of Credo Consulting), listen to our answers and relate our work experiences to others’. I think (and I’m not biased at all here) that they did a really nice job of asking good questions, representing me (and Meaghan, I would imagine) accurately, and drawing some really interesting insights and further provocations from our conversations.

Plus, I was able to listen to both episodes from stem to stern and not cringe once at the sound of my voice! (Although I notice I did talk pretty fast.) Thanks for whatever magic you wrought there, Ken. Now I’m this much closer to chasing my dream of becoming an awesome radio DJ.

The next time you’re working it in the gym, chopping carrots in the kitchen, or toiling with the toilet brush, perhaps you’ll want to take a listen to these fun shows and let me know what you think? I hope my bass vibrato isn’t too much for your earbuds.